What began as a high-profile artistic criticism of the building housing the Guggenheim Museum is now one of its greatest assets: that any visit is as much about experiencing the unique gallery space as whatever art happens to adorn the walls or hang in the rotunda. In the past 50 years, the building has become the international symbol of the New York Art world and one of the city's most recognizable icons. But a day at the Guggenheim is never just about the building--in the end, it serves its purpose as the perfect canvas for some of the most discussed art exhibits in the city.
I do not want to leave to my city just another museum.
What You Will See
The building often overshadows the art it showcases, particularly the permanent collection. Frank Lloyd Wright's masterpiece would be a necessary stop if it stood empty. Take time to appreciate the building, but then focus on the art. The famed rotunda is generally reserved for temporary exhibits, while the small (but powerful) permanent collection is on display in the annex. Watch the calendar: between exhibits, there is not much to see to justify even the discounted admission price. But when there is a blockbuster exhibit, crowds get large and lines get long. Definitely visit, but visit judiciously.
Why You Should Go
Only the Met, the MoMA and the Natural History Museum host more visitors in a year than the Guggenheim. The building sells itself and merits an obligatory visit by tourists--as does the permanent collection. However, the range and volatility of the changing exhibits can make it a bit of a gamble for one-time tourists who may expect a traditional gallery experience. But for locals, a seasonal visit is mandatory in order to participate in the city-wide conversation that latest exhibit sparks. The museum not only preserves evidence of the artistic transition towards modernist styles but actively cultivates ideas which could mark the next major shift.
Even if you aren't hungry, stop by the cafe on the third floor to see photos and films from the building's construction process and more about Frank Lloyd Wright
Frank Lloyd Wright intended visitors to start at the top and move down. Most exhibits now are designed bottom up. Try it both ways.
The museum is more more than its iconic building, but the building alone merits a visit if you are short on time or cash for a ticket up the ramp.
Use the stairs. Use the restrooms. Check you coat. Explore all the non-gallery parts of the building and find the details Wright designed.
Check gallery listings before you go--when major exhibitions are changing there may not be much to see.
The permanent collection is not large enough to be a draw on its own, but is still well worth a visit as part of a larger exhibition.
The Guggenheim is home to a large collection of sculptures by Constantin Brancusi (1876 - 1957) and was the first institution to organize a major exhibition of his work. See a collection of his scuptures supplemented by photographs of the artist at work.
The Thanhauser Collection is the closest thing to permanence at the ever-changing Guggenheim Museum. It is a small but impressive collection of impressionist paintings and scattered sculptures based on the collection of Justin K. Thannhauser.
While in the Neighborhood
Consider adding one of these nearby spots to your trip
Just across the street is the famed Central Park Reservoir. Take in the view of the museum from the park and rest your museum-feet on a shady bench.2 minute walk (directions)
Appreciate the uniqueness of Wright's design by comparing it to the exteriors (or, if you have the energy, the interiors) of the more-traditional museums along Museum Mile.15 minute walk (directions)